"Welcome to Kuwait." With that greeting from our USO contact in the Persian Gulf, the NFL's 41st USO tour officially kicked off.
Four NFL players decided to dedicate a portion of their offseason to travel halfway around the world to say thank you to America's fighting forces. Alge Crumpler, Shelton Quarles, Will Shields and Benjamin Watson are known to most as key members of their NFL teams -- they have played in a combined 17 Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowl titles. But they should also be known for their commitment to improving lives off the field.
Crumpler serves as a spokesperson for, and actively participates in, the Falcons Focus on Fitness. Quarles started the Shelton Quarles IMPACT Foundation in 2003 to help at-risk families. Shields was named the 2003 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his numerous community activities, and Watson has been very active in his local community of Athens, Georgia.
The players and I spent a full day traveling from various points of departure in the United States to the Persian Gulf. Everyone in the group met for the first time in Frankfurt, Germany where the four members of the NFL fraternity formed a quick bond.
And then on to Kuwait, where we are spending the night before departing for our initial destination in the Gulf and our first visit with the troops.
The team is ready. "We're exited for what lies ahead" said Watson. "But what I'm really excited for right now is a hot shower and a good meal. It has been more than 24 hours of traveling since I left home."
More to come tomorrow when we begin our mission to shake as many hands and say as many thank yous as possible.